History of fruit tree orchards in Nottinghamshire

Nottingham has a history of fruit growing. Medieval Nottingham was characterized by its orchards and gardens, whilst the 19th century saw the creation of the influential Pearson’s Nurseries at Chilwell, and later Lowdham, specialising in fruit trees as well as roses.

Pearson’s Nurseries were renown throughout Britain, introducing many varieties of apple such as Domino (first exhibited in 1883), Herring’s Pippin (recorded in 1908) and Winter Quarrenden (recorded in 1896). Bess Pool is another variety made popular by Pearson’s. It is named after the girl who found a chance tree in a wood near Chilwell in the 1700s and took the apples to her father who kept an inn. The fruit achieved local fame before being taken up by Pearson’s Nurseries. It eventually became a Victorian favourite due to its bold crimson flush.

The Pearson family bought land throughout Nottinghamshire and planted orchards and nursery stock wherever they could. In total around 100 acres were planted up for orchards outside kent, which reportedly made it the largest area of non-cider apple orchards in the late 19th century in England. Indeed visitors arriving to Nottingham by train from London were said to be greeted with the surrounding countryside characterised by apple orchards.

Nottinghamshire’s other famous 19th century nursery was Merryweather’s of Southwell. It introduced Merryweather Damson and Bramley’s Seedling, Britain’s best loved and most widely grown cooking apple. Part of the original tree, now over 200 years old, still survives and fruits in Southwell. The tree was said to have been planted by the young Mary Anne Brailsford who decided to plant a pip in a pot from apples her mother was preparing in the kitchen, eventually planting it out in the garden. The apple bears the name of the next owner of the cottage, Matthew Bramley, in whose time the apples achieved the interest of local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather. The Bramley now makes up 97% of all the culinary apples grown commercially in the U.K.

Commercial Bramley orchards can still be found around Southwell, as can the remnants of once thriving commercial orchards around East Markham, Retford and Tuxford.